Employers are increasingly selective, so technology professionals must face facts. To get hired you need to become a pro not just at coding Unix or C++, but at selling yourself to companies besieged with resumes.
During the boom, techies with in-demand skills might have been offered a job after a perfunctory interview. Now employers are increasingly selective, so technology professionals -- even with years of experience -- must face facts. To get hired you need to become a pro not just at coding Unix or C++, but at selling yourself to companies besieged with resumes.
This is no easy task for those who have forgotten how to pitch themselves to employers. "A lot of people are brand new to this," says Patti Wilson, owner of The Career Company
, a Silicon Valley career management firm.
Heres our crash course in the art of selling yourself, with seven tips to help you cope with the job markets new realities.
Assess Your Soft Skills
In 1999, two years experience as a systems administrator might have gotten you hired. No longer -- not when you are competing against hundreds of candidates with skills similar to yours. Candidates must now assess their soft skills. "This is about doing a little bit of soul-searching," says Wilson.
Ron Peterson, branch manager at the St. Louis office of Bradford & Galt
, the IT staffing firm, suggests techies ask themselves about, "core competencies," especially mentoring and team-building. "Intangibles are going to sell this individual," Peterson notes.
Develop an Elevator Pitch
The so-called elevator pitch is a brief self-marketing statement to be delivered at job fairs, conferences or other networking events. The pitch should echo the summary of a resume, according to Wilson, focusing on four key points designed to attract employers attention. The pitch should sound informal and unrehearsed. To practice, deliver it to your answering voicemail, Wilson advises.
Learn to Network
As any salesperson understands, who you know is essential to finding leads. "Networking is about being able to connect from person to person to person," says Wilson. "Its about building a web of relationships, until you meet someone whos looking for what you do."
That means attending technical conferences, classes, job fairs, IT organizations and special networking events designed for techies. Even civic organizations, such as arts groups and other non-profits, can be useful. Plan lunches or after-work meetings with former colleagues, recruiters and others.
"Try to be out there and make an effort to be known," says Wesley Jost, who has retooled his networking efforts after being laid off in August. "If you sit around and wait for something to happen, youre going to be disappointed."
Seek a Support Structure
In order to learn, or relearn, networking and interviewing skills, look to organizations offering workshops or classes, such as the Career Action Center
, a career development organization in Cupertino, California. Larry Erdosh, a software engineer with 15 years of experience, attended workshops at the Career Action Center on writing resumes and interviewing, along with a weekly group for sharing job leads and feedback on job-hunting efforts. He also formed a success team with others, "to keep each other focused, commit to actions on a weekly basis, and give advice and suggestions to each other."
Know Your Audience
Selling yourself effectively means learning everything you can about a company, from the time you write a cover letter to interview day. "[Tech job seekers] need to have researched the company, be able to speak intelligently about the company, and offer their skill set to solve the companys problems," says Barry Mills, national recruiting director for MATRIX Resources
, the national IT staffing company.
Be a Closer
Mills suggests techies use a traditional sales tactic for closing the sale. At the end of an interview, ask the interviewer, "Based on this interview, is there anything that would keep you from hiring me for this position?" As Mills notes, "Its very much a sales-type question." Whats more, send a follow-up note to the individuals youve met at the company, thanking them for their time.
Finally, dont be discouraged if finding a job takes weeks or months. "Practice patience each and every day," says Jost. "You wont be handed your job like you were a year ago." Put it this way: If you stop looking, youre out of the game. As any salesperson knows, perseverance is essential to closing the sale.
Read Part I -- "Selling Yourself" -- here.
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